Risks & Trends

'Lousy demographics will not stop China’s rise'

Financial Times

Gideon Rachman | Financial Times
'Lousy demographics will not stop China’s rise'
'Lousy demographics will not stop China’s rise'
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China's demographic challenges

3

May 27, 2021
BIG IDEA | ‘The old maxim ‘demography is destiny’ no longer holds in the same way that it used to.’
‘A shrinking and ageing population may not have the same gloomy implications in the 21st century.’

‘ “China will grow old, before it grows rich” is one of those things people like to say at conferences — usually followed by a dramatic pause.’

  • ‘The implication is that China’s rise to global dominance will soon hit a giant barrier: demographics.’

‘The old maxim ‘demography is destiny’ no longer holds in the same way that it used to.’

  • ‘A large, expanding and youthful population has driven the rise of nations for much of human history.’
  • ‘Great powers needed warm bodies to put on a battlefield and citizens to tax.’

‘But a shrinking and ageing population may not have the same gloomy implications in the 21st century.’

  • ‘The great-power struggles of the future are unlikely to be decided by vast land battles.’

‘If technological prowess, rather than hordes of young men, is the key to future power then China is well placed.’

  • ‘The country has cutting-edge capabilities in fields such as robotics and artificial intelligence.’

‘With a population of 1.4bn people — which is likely only to decline gently until mid-century — China will not be short of manpower either.’

‘It is the structure rather than the size of China’s population that will be the real challenge.’

  • ‘By 2040, around 30 per cent of the country will be over 60. More old people will have to be supported by a smaller working age population, slowing economic growth.’
  • ‘China may never achieve the per-capita wealth levels of the US.’
  • ‘But even if the average Chinese is only half as rich as the average American, the Chinese economy would still easily surpass America’s in overall size.’

‘China’s low fertility rate means that its population will shrink and age over the coming decades.’

‘China, which has a very ethnically-based view of citizenship and is less open to immigration than the west.’

  • ‘By contrast — despite the current political rows about immigration in the US and the EU — the west is likely to remain comparatively open to migrants.’
  • ‘Western societies will gain economic dynamism as a result.’

‘But they could also lose political stability — since the backlash against immigration has helped to drive the rise of politicians such as Donald Trump.’

  • ‘The big question of geopolitics will be not who has the larger population — but whether China or the west have made the right call on mass migration.’

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